Not Set Yet

The Pistons have 15 players with guaranteed contracts, the NBA limit. But they’re not taking the team picture just yet.

“We continue to search for the right pieces to add to this roster,” Joe Dumars told me late last week, before he and assistant general manager George David headed to Europe for a week to watch two of those 15 play for their national teams, Sweden’s Jonas Jerebko and Ukraine’s Slava Kravtsov. “We don’t feel like we’re done. We’re in the midst of a building process, so at this stage of building we could never say, OK, we’re done. We continue to look right now, every day.”

There’s a huge board with the depth charts for all 30 NBA teams on the north wall of Dumars’ office on the second floor of the team’s Auburn Hills practice facility. The Pistons’ depth chart shows plenty of options at power forward (Jerebko, Jason Maxiell, Charlie Villanueva, Austin Daye, plus Greg Monroe in the event both Andre Drummond and Kravtsov are good enough to chew up most of the 48 minutes at center) and small forward (Tayshaun Prince, Corey Maggette, Kyle Singler, Khris Middleton).

Depth in the backcourt, on the other hand, is comparatively thin: Brandon Knight and Will Bynum at point guard, Rodney Stuckey and rookie Kim English at shooting guard. As it stands now, it would be English of all Pistons rookies – Drummond, Kravtsov, Middleton and Singler, in addition – who might be most needed to fill a rotation spot even though he was drafted 44th, the lowest of the four Americans. (Kravtsov was not drafted in 2009 when he was automatically eligible.)

“That’s a fair assessment, but one that I will never make in the middle of August,” Dumars said. “The way the NBA plays out, it’s hard to project in the middle of August. You never know what’s going to happen.”

The Pistons, in fact, have more flexibility at guard than the depth chart might reveal. Stuckey spent most of his first four years playing point guard, so he could back up Knight capably, while Maggette has frequently swung to shooting guard over the course of his career. It’s not inconceivable, then, that the Pistons would go to camp without having bolstered their backcourt. It’s just not Dumars’ intention or preference.

“I would feel comfortable (with the status quo), but it’s something we’re trying to address, as well,” Dumars said. “We continue to look to shuffle one or two spots on our roster to give it more balance.”

There are several teams that have similar roster anomalies, perhaps to an unusual degree for mid-August. (A post last week on the basketball website sheridanhoops.com listed 20 teams with a gaping need at one or more positions; the Pistons weren’t one of them.) That’s perhaps a byproduct of the new collective bargaining agreement and teams treading more carefully as they grasp its ramifications. Whatever the cause, Dumars wouldn’t be surprised if there are more trades between now and the opening of training camp than in a typical off-season.

“I do get the sense that there are more teams trying to impact their rosters through the month of August, which historically has been a slow period,” he said. “In the conversations I’m having and the amount of teams I’m talking to in what is a traditionally slow time, it’s not that right now. For whatever reason, I don’t know, but it is the case. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more moves happen.”

Because there are still nearly six weeks until training camps open, Dumars gets the sense – at least based on the conversations he’s had – that some of his peers are interested in dealing but are waiting out the best offers. Maybe the real wave of deals that balances the rosters of teams like the Pistons won’t happen until the final days of September.

“It’s primarily a lot of feelers out, a lot of conversations,” he said. “I can’t say there’s anything imminent right now, but there are a lot of conversations.”

Often, those conversations lay the groundwork for deals that can be agreed to overnight. The June trade with Charlotte that brought Maggette for Ben Gordon came together remarkably fast. So commit the Pistons’ current 15-man roster to memory if you choose. Just don’t be surprised if it changes by a name or two before everybody assembles for training camp.